Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada are still in the process of evaluating its Express Entry strategy for 2022, according to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. Express Entry is the main way Canada welcomes skilled and semi-skilled workers candidates who meet the eligibility criteria for FSWP, CEC, FSTP, and PNP applicants.
They earn a score based on likes of their age, education, language skills, and work experience, among other criteria. Before the pandemic, FSWP candidates were the primary recipient of the Express Entry Program (ITA) for permanent residence.
During the pandemic, CEC candidates have received the most invitations. However, since September, IRCC has only held Express Entry drawings for (PNP) candidates in an effort to reduce the backlog.
Possibility to extend the pause for Express Entry invitations to FSWP, CEC, and FSTP candidates until the middle of this year to give IRCC more time to reduce the backlog. However, due to the heavily redacted nature of the memorandum, much of its context is missing, leaving readers to guess how IRCC will manage the Express Entry system going forward. The total immigration backlog is 1.8 million applications pending on the waiting list as of December 2021, of which about 120,000 fall under the Express Entry system.
Shawn Fraser put some speculation to rest at a meeting with the immigration department of the Canadian Bar Association on January 20. The CBA Immigration Division is an association that represents Canadian immigration attorneys and meets with the Canadian government regularly to discuss how to improve the immigration system.
The minister stated that IRCC has not yet determined the upcoming FSWP and CEC withdrawal, but that they are still looking at Express Entry withdrawal options for 2022.
Fraser explained to the CBA that the IRCC does not plan to cancel and refund permanent residence applications already submitted in order to reduce its backlog. This was speculated on social media because it’s something the Canadian government did about 10 years ago to reduce its stockpile. Minister Fraser noted that IRCC is stabilizing application processing so it can reduce its backlog, and noted that the Canadian government recently committed an additional $85 million to support this goal.
The specific profession charts a possibility in the future. Fraser explained that IRCC is exploring the possibility of maintaining a “focus on the profession [Express Entry] that responds to employment needs,” according to CBA notes.
The Canadian government’s 2021 budget noted this possibility, citing the government’s desire to reform Express Entry “to select candidates best suited to meet the needs of the Canadian labor market.”
Issuing Express Entry invitations based on the professional background will be new to Express Entry, but will also use a longstanding approach that has been used by IRCC and provinces and territories for decades.
In the past, FSWP candidates had to undergo the National Occupational Classification (NOC) law that was required to be eligible for the FSWP program. Today, under many federal and provincial pathways, you need to undergo a qualified NOC in order to pursue immigration through the pathway.
Since its launch in 2015, Express Entry has managed FSWP, CEC, and FSTP candidates based on their CRS score, and more during the pandemic, based on the eligibility program. Prior to the pandemic, IRCC typically invited candidates with the highest CRS scores to apply for permanent residence regardless of their eligibility program. The rationale for this approach was that those with the highest CRS scores had the best likelihood of integrating into the Canadian labor market.
IRCC recently conducted a draw for all programs in December 2020. Between January and September 2021, IRCC issued invitations to eligible CEC and PNP candidates for Express Entry. The rationale for focusing on CEC candidates is that they are more likely to be in Canada and therefore not be hindered by travel restrictions or other public health measures. The rationale for inviting PNP candidates is that IRCC can help provinces and territories with their labor market needs.
Introducing an occupation-based approach to Express Entry invitations would provide IRCC with an additional tool in alleviating labor shortages. Express Entry already awards 50 or 200 CRS points for arranged employment but most candidates are able to obtain a permanent residence invitation without a job offer. In 2020, only 16 percent of those with an ITA arranged employment.